Kolkata: As 18-Year-old Hima Das created history by winning the gold at IAAF Under-20 Athletics Championships, social media went berserk with congratulatory messages pouring in from both the celebs and the common man. However, her hard-earned glory was marred by a faux pas made by the Athletic Federation of India. The federation, while congratulating her on Twitter, seemed apologetic about her ‘not-so-strong command over English’. Strong criticism from the public made the federation apologise for their mistake.
Nevertheless, Indians were seen rejoicing in her victory. However, at a time when many began posting messages and pictures, taking pride in the glory that the 18-year-old daughter of a paddy farmer from Assam brought, a parallel task had been taken on by the people of Kerala, Karnataka, Haryana, Assam and Bengal. They had a special self-assigned task to search for Hima’s caste.
The number of searches made is evident from the fact that the moment one types ‘Hima Das’ in the Google search engine, the phrase – Hima Das Caste, promptly appears as the first option. A little more probing on Google Trends revealed that Indians from states like Kerela, Karnataka, Haryana, Assam and West Bengal began searching for her caste immediately after the news of Hima winning the gold went viral.
The top three states for making the maximum number of queries related to the caste of the athlete were Kerela, Karnataka and Haryana. A similar caste search was done in the year 2018, when PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik, had done the nation proud by bagging the Silver and Bronze at the Olympics. However, back then, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Haryana had topped the list.
“Somedays, I am so ashamed to be Indian and I hate my fellow countrymen so much. This is one such day,” wrote Chennai’s Kalpavalli Karthik on his Facebook timeline, as he shared the screenshot of Google Search box showing Hima Das Caste as the most searched item.
These type of searches, actually reflects the deep-seated indicate how caste identities, still are so vital in our country. However, the most surprising detail revealed by Google Trends this time being that even Indian states like, Kerela and West Bengal, which are considered to be liberal and educated, making it to the top five searchers of Hima’s caste.
“It’s unbelievable. An Indian made us proud through her own hardship and struggle. She brought us glory. She is an Indian and that should only matter. Her caste, religion, skin colour or beauty trivial things to be compared or searched for,” said Konkana Bakshi, former Miss Elegance, World and an image consultant and etiquette specialist.
Another search on FB revealed another open debate related to Hima’s ethnicity. Apparently, a news report had called Hima a Bengali on the basis of her surname, while she is an Assamese.
AFI might have issued an apology, but who will issue an apology for Indians, time and again reducing the identity of achievers like Hima, Sindhu and Sakshi on the basis of their caste or regional identity? Shouldn’t we Indians simply rejoice and celebrate the accolades that they bring in due to their sheer perseverance and never say die attitude? Or this will be the way things will go ahead in the new divided India, where the achievements will be gauged and appreciated in accordance with one’s religious, regional and caste identity?